• This Is Rutherford

This Was Rutherford's Alyea-Webb Family

Updated: Jul 30

Submitted and written by Borough Historian Rod Leith


Mary Caroline Alyea (nee Webb) was just a teenager when her parents moved to Rutherford in 1898. She would marry into the Alyea family in 1915 and become a music teacher of considerable reputation, ultimately succeeding to manage her own music studio in a stately Victorian home on Sylvan Street.

Photos above: Historical photo ("It is believed to have been built about 1895. It's a Victorian classical revival style with windows in a Palladian motif. The porch, open at the front and usually the side is typically partially enclosed with columns and railings"-explained Rosario Mannino, architect) and a current photo of 150 Sylvan Street.


The Alyea School of Music, located at 150 Sylvan Street, offered lessons in piano, violin, viola, and voice culture. Mrs. Mary W, Alyea was its director. Records indicate that Jean W. Dawley owned this property in the 1920s and that Garry Alyea, aka Garabrant R. Alyea Jr, was a tenant. Mary subsequently located her studio at 120 Ridge Road.


Mary Alyea, whose nickname was "Mammie" to her beloved children and grandchildren, was a descendant of two of Rutherford's significant families. Her grandfather-in-law, Garrabrant Ryerson Alyea, was a teacher at the historic Meadow Road School, opened in 1850 on land deeded by Daniel Van Winkle. His son, Mary's husband, known as Garry Alyea, became a Vice-Principal with the East Rutherford school district.

The Alyea family can trace its history to the early 19th century in Rutherford. Eliza Alyea, daughter of Albert and Sophia Alyea, married Peter R. Outwater in 1821. Peter was the son of Richard Outwater, who built the Outwater House in East Rutherford in 1821 (extant). The Outwater House, which is located across the street from Elia Restaurant (240 Hackensack Street), is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Richard Outwater House, 1941. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

On the Webb side of her family, Mary's father was born in 1846 to parents who were active in the Columbia County Temperance Society in New York's Hudson Valley. Their distaste for alcohol consumption apparently took root in their son, Alexander Russell Webb, who became one of America's early converts to Islam.

Mohammed Alexander Russell Webb

Mohammed Alexander Russell Webb was "one of the earliest American Muslims to achieve public renown," according to his biographer, Umar F. Abd-Allah. Duke University's Rare Books Collection holds some of Webb's literature, including "The Moslem World," an 1893 journal that reported on the World's Parliament of Religions at the Chicago World's Fair.

When Mary Webb Alyea was born in 1885 in St. Louis, MO, her father had become actively employed as a journalist and editor with several prominent newspapers. These included the Post-Dispatch and Globe Democrat, which later became the Missouri Republican.


It was while he held the position as an editor of The Missouri Republican in 1887 that Webb was appointed Consul to Manila, the Philippines, by President Grover Cleveland. During his service in Manila, Webb's daughter, Nala, was born on Feb 11, 1888. Both Mary and Nala became teachers after the Webbs relocated to Rutherford.


Nala Webb Fries, Photo credit: Findagrave.com

When they arrived in Rutherford in the late 1890s, Alexander and Ella, his wife, settled on Orient Way in a property owned by Martha "Maddie" Brinkerhoff Alyea, who was married to the senior Garrabrant Alyea. By 1909, both Mary and her sister had become teachers. At the time, they were residing at 391 Orient Way. On April 10, 1915, Mary was married to Garrabrant R. Alyea, Jr.

Alexander Russell Webb died in Rutherford on October 6, 1916. He had been active in the Knights of Pythias, serving that non-denominational society as Chancellor. He had owned the Rutherford News and had a popular following for his Commuters Column. The Webbs also had a son, Russell Lorenzo Webb, born in St. Louis in 1879. Webb's memorial service was held at the Unitarian Church, conducted by Reverend Elizabeth Padgham. Besides his children, Mary and his other children, it was attended by many of Rutherford's prominent citizens.

Mary apparently inherited many of her father's social as well as physical characteristics.

"Grandma was tiny but a powerhouse when it came to her skill as a piano teacher," according to Kathryn Ann Alyea, who was married to Karl-Heinrich Pflumm at Rutherford's First Presbyterian Church. "She was a very kind and loving grandma," Kathryn said in a posting on the Hillside cemetery site. Mary W. Alyea was buried at Hillside Cemetery in April 1975.


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